The well-known fashion designer is strategising to stimulate sales in the region
Fashion designer Fadwa Baruni acknowledges she is juggling with “lots of balls in the air” as she seeks a fitting theme for her Spring Summer 2016 collection.
While Spring Summer 2016 is still being conceptualised, her Spring Summer 2015 is being delivered and the initial response has been good. The theme is evocative of adventure, independence and derring do and has been unrolled as Reborn in the Wild. She elaborates it is somewhat special on prints and colours and “captures the mood of the wild.”
Baruni’s creations are manufactured in a Sharjah factory she does not own but subcontracts. Typically a collection has 30 to 40 “looks” and typically she designs two collections per year, Spring-Summer and Autumn Winter, in line with the fashion industry cycle.
Between December 2013 and December 2014, Baruni manufactured over 2,000 garments in 50 to 60 styles. Her main markets are in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and of course the UAE where she’s based. “We have seen some interest from other parts of the world but our styles have over the last few years focused on regional tastes,” she says. “Our intention is to continue to build the market here in the Gulf before stepping out further afield.” Indeed, approximately 80 per cent of sales come from buyers outside the UAE. The advantage in having markets in the same, rather small, region is that “being in the same time zone or one with only an hour’s difference means they can be accessed and developed in the same way as our local market.” Baruni sells to store buyers and favours attractive elookbooks and a strong website with as much social media coverage as possible.
“We are certainly working to identify and serve more export markets. We are undergoing a strategic review now and developing a plan to address this. It will require a strong combination of sales and marketing efforts,” she avers.
“We will undertake market research to identify target distributors and buyers and take a structured approach to sales. We are condident that with the efforts we’ve already put into quality and manufacturing, and our experience in shipping, the logistics and supply side of the growth will not be too challenging.”
After she constructs patterns, sources fabrics and makes example garments or “mocks”, there is the additional burden of checking quality in the production lines. Which all means she has to be fortunate in the selection of staff. But Baruni takes no chances. “Recruiting talent is the most significant challenge all businesses face,” she notes, “and we have worked to address this in line with all small companies, this being a particular challenge for small firms. We interview and test staff by giving them specific and appropriate tasks to demonstrate their skills before we bring them on board.” There is a probationary period and, at the end of the day, says Baruni, there could still be examples of “hit and miss.”
She confesses to having a “ruthless approach” when selecting designs but then they also have to be such that can be manufactured to the highest standards. “Some of my favourite designs don’t get far off the drawing board when we actually start working at producing them.”
Baruni, who was born and brought up in Libya and served in the petroleum industry with a Master’s degree in engineering from Scotland, went through a career change, selecting a new path in the fashion and garment industry. She underwent training in a fashion college in the UAE, eventually setting up Baruni Couture in 2008.
Now, having achieved a measure of recognition in the region, she says of the radical career move she made and the aftermath: “It has been incredibly challenging and some days I get tired and dispirited but in the end I would not change it for the world. When I see a woman wearing one of my dresses and looking her best, it really makes my day.”